Added by on 2012-09-13

Key steps in risk management

Identify the risks.
Assess the risks.
Control the risks.
Monitor and review the process.

Who should be involved?

Appoint a manager to take overall responsibility for the risk management program. The checklist below provides examples of other people who may be involved (where they are present in the workplace or relevant to the task).

Checklistline managers and supervisorspersonnel with special skills and expertise (such as first aid or medical staff and engineering employees)

OHS committee members

OHS officers

OHS representatives

outside consultants or risk management specialists (eg from workplace health and safety regulatory authorities or peak industry groups)

employees – employee involvement is a legal requirement in most States and Territories

How do you identify risks?

Risk identification involves the systematic investigation of all potential risks and identifying and recording the hazards which are causing them. In simple terms, it means identifying all of the possible ways in which people may be harmed. In order to understand what risk identification involves, it is first necessary to understand the nature of hazards.

Hazards may arise from:

the workplace environment (eg a confined space where there may be an oxygen deficiency)

equipment (eg an extremely noisy engine which has not been insulated)

substances (eg hazardous fumes from solvents)

work systems (eg the area surrounding a back hoe on a construction site being used as a thoroughfare for other workplace traffic).

TipMany hazards may go unnoticed in a workplace (eg ergonomic hazards such as the discomfort from a badly designed seat), but which, in the long run, may result in unnecessary injuries.


ChecklistForms of hazardsPhysical – eg noise, electricity, heat and cold.

Chemical – eg toxic gases, noxious fumes and corrosive liquids.

Ergonomic – eg the height of a workbench, the shape of a vehicle’s seat and the length of a control lever.

Radiation – eg from x-ray machines, infra-red beams and badly sealed microwave ovens.

Psychological – eg stress from using equipment without proper training or instructions, or being coerced into using faulty equipment which carries a risk of injury.

Biological – eg syringes containing potentially infected blood, specimen containers carrying potentially infected materials, and Legionella bacteria and viruses from air conditioning systems.

What is a risk?

Risk is the possibility of injury, illness, damage or loss occurring as a result of a hazard. The following table gives examples of risks arising from hazards.

Hazard Risk
an unguarded gear wheel on a workshop grinding machine the potential to draw clothing and limbs into the drive of the machine and cause serious bodily injury
electricity in an underground cable at an excavation site the potential to be unearthed by earthmoving machinery and cause electrocution
an unlabelled container of caustic soda the potential to cause severe skin burns if handled incorrectly
loose asbestos released during demolition work the potential to cause lung cancer
noise from an uninsulated chainsaw can reach levels of up to 110 decibels with the potential to seriously damage hearing
a badly designed shovel (for example, with a short handle and very large blade) the potential to cause back injury
boxes piled in a passageway the potential to trip someone and cause injury
waste oil from an engine the potential to damage health through skin absorption, due to its carcinogenic properties
blood in a syringe at a hospital the potential to infect a medical worker with a disease if the needle punctures the worker’s skin
a gas-fired water heating system in a hotel the potential to injure people in the vicinity and to damage the hotel building in the event of an explosion

Risk identification procedure

There are different approaches to the task of risk identification. These include:

hazard-based risk identification

location-based risk identification

task-based risk identification.

TipThe method used is up to the individual workplace and may be influenced by the size of the organisation and the complexity of its operations. In certain circumstances it may be advisable to use more than one method. Often all three methods can be used to good effect. For example, it is quite sensible to break the workplace down into locations and zones and then into tasks, while bearing in mind that there may be particular types of hazards which should be particularly looked out for.

Hazard-based risk identification

Identifying risks based on hazards involves:

starting out with a list of potential hazards (such as noise, manual handling or plant)

identifying all of the areas in the workplace and work activities where these occur

identifying the risks associated with them.


Identifying plant-related risks

Step 1: Compile a plant register

A plant register is a log where all plant items are recorded according to their name, model, location and in-house registration number (which is allocated to the plant by the organisation when plant is first introduced into the workplace). Any additional information pertinent to the plant (catalogues, drawings, operating instructions, maintenance instructions) are then filed under the same registration number.

You are legally required to keep a plant register in many States and Territories, and it is also recommended practice in WorkSafe Australia’s NOHSC 1010 – National Standard for Plant.

Step 2: Inspect the workplace, using the plant register

Check that each item of plant is included when you do your workplace inspection to identify risks associated with each plant.

Step 3: Record the results

You then consolidate your findings in a plant risk identification list.

ChecklistPlant-related risks may arise from the following types of hazards:mechanical action, eg pressing, cutting, grinding and rolling – carrying risks such as entanglement, severing and crushing

impact, eg from a moving part, a flying object or particle, or powered mobile plant

electrical exposure, eg from electrically powered plant, electromagnetic radiation, or electrostatic charge

heat and cold, eg from ovens, large industrial machinery, freezers and liquid nitrogen containers

noise and vibration, eg from the engines of earthmoving plant

explosion eg from plant under pressure

falls eg from an elevated platform.


Identifying chemical hazards

Step 1: Keep a chemical substances register

Identify all substances, their location and quantity. Determine which substances are hazardous – this can be done by checking the container storage label and the substance’s MSDS – and develop a consolidated list of these substances.

Chemical substances registers are a legal requirement for workplaces using hazardous substances. The register must include a copy of all Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for hazardous substances, as well as additional information relating to storage, preservation, disposal and handling of each chemical in the workplace.

Step 2: Inspect the workplace

Conduct workplace inspections to review the use, storage and handling of the chemicals in the register. The inspections must also record existing control measures (explained below).

TipDue to the range of their potential forms, chemical hazards can often be invisible or less obvious in the workplace environment.


ChecklistChemical-related risks may arise from the following types of hazards:solids eg dusts, powders, smoke and fumes which may, for example, be inhaled causing health impacts including damage to the respiratory tract, fevers, nausea and cancer

liquids eg mixtures and solvents which can be absorbed through the skin or swallowed, causing injuries such as tissue necrosis, burns, dermatitis and absorption of toxins resulting in damage to organs

gases which may be inhaled, causing effects such as poisoning, fevers, headaches and nausea.


Identifying manual handling hazards

Manual handling hazards have the potential to occur in almost every workplace activity.

Step 1: Develop a manual handling register

This is a log of all manual handling activities which are recorded and allocated a registration number.

Step 2: Inspect the workplace

Before starting the inspection, use the register to prepare a list of manual tasks and record existing control measures (explained below).

ChecklistManual handling hazards may be present in the form of:incorrect methods of lifting and carrying loads

repetitive tasks which are poorly designed and scheduled

poor work techniques and postures used for lifting, digging, pushing or pulling.


Location-based and task-based risk identification

Risk identification based on location is where the workplace is broken down into work sectors and zones and all of the risks present in each zone are identified.

Risk identification based on tasks involves analysing workplace activities and breaking them down into individual tasks. An inventory is made of all of the tasks conducted in the workplace and each task is investigated to identify all of the risks and hazards involved.

These two methods are often combined – that is, the workplace is broken into sectors and then each task in the sector is analysed. The procedure for this follows.

Step 1: identify tasks in each location

For example:

Office tasks:


word processing

filing/retrieving files

data entry

window cleaning

cash handling.

Woodworking shop:

delivery of timber

cutting timber on the circular saw

using the spindle moulder

using the planing/thicknessing machine

using the tenoning machine

gluing joints

handling finished product.

Machine shop:

delivery of stock

using the lathe

using the pedestal drilling machine

pressing the sheet steel components

polishing and grinding the components

removing the components to the store.

New office construction area:




scaffold erection

pouring of concrete

painting of external timber.

Vehicle repair workshop:

replacing brake drums/pads

changing oil

welding repairs

spray painting

replacing exhaust systems

road testing

engine tuning

testing exhaust emissions.

TipRemember to consider future, non-routine or “one-off” tasks. Examples of these types of tasks include:cleaning out a chemical reaction vessel

repairing a roof

installing a new item of plant

extending a building

introducing a new process

changing materials or substances used

repairing broken-down plant.

Step 2: analyse the tasks

Each activity must be analysed so that all of the hazards involved can be identified.

This may mean further breaking down some tasks into component elements. Each of these elements is then examined in terms of its activities, use of plant and equipment, use of substances and materials, processes, and the place where it is carried out.

The component elements of a task may include:

individual activities

substances and materials

plant, tools and equipment involved processes

characteristics of the place where the task is carried out.

The easiest method of breaking tasks down into elements is usually to consider how the task is undertaken step by step.

ExampleThe task of cutting timber on a circular saw involves the following elements:moving timber to the saw

setting the guides and guards

feeding the timber into the saw

cutting the timber

removing the cut piece

removing the waste

transporting the cut timber to the next location

dealing with jammed timber

maintaining the saw.

Step 3: draw up the tasks inventory

Compile the tasks identified into a task inventory. Details which will be helpful in later risk management exercises should be included – such as any plant or substances involved and any specific operator competencies required (for example, a licence to operate a plant item). A sample form is provided below.

Step 4: identify the hazards

Now that all the component parts of each task are analysed and recorded, you can identify their hazards and their associated risks.

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